Why do liberals have a spittle-flecked nutty about the cappa magna? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Last night I watched the BBC (on demand) coverage of the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in London. No one does ceremony and music like the British.

The sober ceremony, with its essentially unchanging script, got me thinking about the need we human beings have for outward signs and for, above all for decorum.

Decorum can mean several things.  It is a technical term from ancient rhetoric for that which is apt in this time and place and for this audience so as to achieve your goal.  It also has do with that which is apt in society, boundaries for social behavior.

God knows that we, as human beings, need outward signs to grasp something of the mystery of our encounters with Him and about His plan for us (see St. Augustine, Letters 54-55).  God also knows that we need boundaries for our interactions.

What a devastating mistake is this slide into ever greater informality we have been inflicted with for some decades now.

What a mistake it is to strip away the outward signs of propriety or decorum.

Within Holy Church this applies to our liturgical worship as well as to our social interaction.  Today I posted about a video documentary on the cassock.  HERE  I think the stripping down of ecclesiastical garb has also played ruinously with our Catholic identity across the board.  I don’t mean to say that clerics should be constantly focused on garb.  However, I do think bishops, priests and deacons ought to know how to dress properly according to station and occasion.  Sometimes it is necessary to put on all the gear.  Sometimes, not all the time.  This self-respect, and respect for office, and respect for neighbor, must in turn have a knock on effect among the laity.  Proper dress demonstrates respect for self, for office, for vocation and for others whom a priest is ordained to serve.

We need decorum.

It seems to me that this is one of the reasons why the liberals who suffer from Burke Derangement Syndrome™ consistently mention the cappa magna.  It is as if they are … scared of it.

The fact is that the use of the cappa is still foreseen today for use outside Rome. It is still proper ecclesiastical garb. Liberals fixate on cappas.  They fixate on vestments in a way is truly bizarre.  Reading their philippics is like watching someone struggle with serious disorders.

In my experience, based on the Pontifical Masses I have been involved with, the prelates generally endure all the pontifical gear.  They submit themselves to what the rites and to what decorum both require.

They put them on because they understand that the garb and the rites are not about them.  They endure the discomfort with a cheerful submission because they love the Church and the people they serve, who in turn want to celebrate the sacred mysteries with decorum and reverence.  They submit to the dictates of decorum because, as good churchmen, they want to foster the virtue of Religion, love for the Church and her rites and teaching, and respect for the role of the successors of the Apostles.  It isn’t about them.

This is the exact opposite of the liberal approach to liturgy and garb.  What liberals do screams that its all about them.

I think that liberals instinctively grasp that humility underlies the symbolism of the traditional vestments, the prayers of the older form of  Mass, and even the use of items like the cappa, which underscore the dignity of office and not the person.  Humility and submission to authority is what they can’t stand, and so they heap ridicule on the rites, the garb and, especially, the people who use them. It’s like a sickness.

It’s not just that they despise the old ways.  They despise the people who revere tradition.  They despise the people because of their own contempt for authority.  Furthermore, they know how wrong it is for Catholics to despise these things and these people and so they lash out with personal attacks.

Decorum is about respect, for our forebears, for our neighbor, and for our posterity.

Finally, I have to ask:

Why do they not write and talk this way about Eastern Catholics with their spectacular golden crowns and magnificent vestments? Even when we Latins put on all our gear, we we don’t do crowns. An attack on traditional Roman garb and ways is an attack our Eastern brethren too.  Not to mention the Orthodox.  Liberals are particularly taken with things Orthodox these days (cf oikonomia).

UPDATE 12 Nov:

Ann Barnhardt recently made a similar connection between the way a nation treats its fallen soldiers and our Catholic liturgy. HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, Throwing a Nutty, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Oh, Fr. Z., you nailed the liberal pathology. BTW, are those very large pallia that the Eastern bishops are wearing?

  2. oldcanon2257 says:

    The bishop with the cappa magna appears to be Archbishop Mvé Engone of Libreville, Gabon. He was one of those invited by Pope Benedict XVI to the meeting about Summorum Pontificum in late June 2007. It looks like the photo was from something for the Institute of Christ the King (which was founded in Gabon).

    With bishops like that, no wonder the puppetmasters and Kasperites at the recent synod were very afraid of the prelates from the Church in Africa.

    By the way, a poor little boy named Giuseppe Sarto from the farming village of Riese grew up to be Pope Pius X. I pray the if it is God’s will, a well-known pastoral shepherd who once was little boy of humble background from Richland County, Wisconsin will someday become Pius XIII. I would love to see Winters’ and Mickens’ face on that glorious day.

    I might have mentioned this before, but I just love, God forgive me, rubbing those photos (taken in 1963 in Baltimore) of the uber-liberal Augustin Cardinal Bea in winter cappa magna in the collective faces of the cappa-hating liberals.

    I really wonder if Cardinal Bea were still alive, what would he have to say about the state of the Church today??

  3. Martlet says:

    As I have been saying all across the Internet, in response to some of these bizarre people, when I taught Confirmation classes, the students loved the all the pomp and ceremony. As one of the most difficult (but in the end most prepared) students said, it made the day feel very special. We are human. We need ceremony and a bit of pomp. God doesn’t need it. Bishops don’t need it. We need it. It distinguishes the mundane from the special, and the special from the very special.

  4. Per Signum Crucis says:

    Of course, a cappa magna (although not always so magna as the Roman version) has been the staple attire of the best baddies for many years: the top-hatted moustachioed-twirling ‘gentleman’ tying the sweet young lady who has spurned his advances to the railroad tracks; the Prince of the Undead, Dracula himself; and even the Dark Lord of the Sith. Why should Roman Catholic prelates – or, to use that double-edged description, Princes of the Church – be any different in the post-conciliar and particularly the current Franciscan eras?

    Seriously, the key to all this is context – time and place – a point reflected also in Fr’s related post on the cassock. But it’s not just in liturgical matters (garb and otherwise) that there are complex and contradictory undercurrents: picking up on the Remembrance Day theme, there has been some liberal backlash here in the UK for a few years now about ‘poppy fascism’ particularly by the mainstream televised media.

    Misunderstanding, wilful or otherwise, of the symbolism behind rites and garb, is a significant part of the problem. The more complicated issue highlighted by Martlet is that, if God doesn’t need it and we know that ourselves, how do justify a persistence in maintaining traditionalist ways if for no other reason than earthly pride?

  5. Wiktor says:

    This picture reminds me of a Byzantine rite mass celebrated by St. John Paul II.
    Eastern-rite bishops had those huge omophorions, while the Pope’s pallium looked like a tiny miniature in comparison…

  6. Andreas says:

    Father Z. notes, “What a devastating mistake is this slide into ever greater informality we have been inflicted with for some decades now. What a mistake it is to strip away the outward signs of propriety or decorum.”

    This reminds me of something said by Dr. Samuel J. Wylie, Rector of the Anglican Church of the Advent in Boston back almost half a century ago, “There is the possibility that Rome may go too far in the direction of simplicity. Majesty, mystery, and the dimension of glory are part of our worship, too. Cathedral churches and parishes both have a responsibility to honour the God Who transcends all human “folksiness” even though He hallows it … Pray that new reforms in worship in all communions may be saved from faddism and may fulfill their purpose of making the encounter between God and men more possible and total.” Ref: Cecilia Magazine (Winter, 1965), 91(4). http://media.musicasacra.com/publications/caecilia/1965_4_caecilia.pdf.

  7. CharlesG says:

    You are ever so right, Father Z, about the hypocrisy about the Easterns versus the Westerns. Their stubborn retention of the beauty of their liturgical tradition is an admirable preservation of a wonderful cultural treasure, but valuing the beauty of our Western liturgical tradition is just beyond the pale. The beauty, the formality, the reverence, the tradition, the pomp and ceremony is for the glory of God in our worship! It is something the poor can take great pride to take part in. A poor church for the poor can have liturgical beauty. Even the Pope commended liturgical beauty in Gaudium Evangelii. I am a convert from a Protestant, rather anti-Catholic background, but a family story was told me of a longserving Catholic maidservant in the household to whom my grandfather would give a small bonus at regular intervals. Years later, he discovered that she had contributed every dime to helping beautify the local church. My grandfather was apparently furious to find out he had been supporting the Catholic Church all those years, but it goes to show that the poor can and do value the beauty of the temple in the service of God.

  8. Bashful82 says:

    I think Western media/liberals don’t really get the Orthodox Church and if we are honest, I think Catholics (both lay and otherwise) are probably the same (though not just the Orthodox but also their Eastern/Oriental Catholic brethren).

    It will be interesting to get the liberals locked in a room with a few Orthodox Archbishops/Metropolitans/Patriarchs…

    Frankly I am up for all the pomps and circumstances and the robes and the mitres and the crown and the incense (not enough incense in the West! More!). But I do think some of the other European monarchies do ceremonies better than the British.

  9. Martlet says:

    Per Signum Crucis – I would say that far from being prideful, to admit the human need for ceremony is a sign of humility, an acknowledgement that we find it difficult to rise above the mundane without help. I think it is enough justification to simply say that we need grandeur. An example. I lived near St Louis for a good number of years (an English expat) and attended the Jesus 2000 Conference. While looking for someone, I popped my head into a room where some Vineyard folk – the women all veiled – were praying over someone. I stood and watched for a while, and smiled as I turned to my husband and said how remarkable it was that these people -many of whom thought they had shunned the trappings of Catholicism – had invented elaborate ceremonies of their own.

  10. Martlet says:

    CharlesG – Do you think it is possible that the poor value the beauty even more than those who are constantly surrounded by it?

  11. Kerry says:

    From this past Sunday’s bulletin: ” Last week I mentioned some upcoming liturgical changes at Carmel. This week I will write about the acquisition of new vestments for our parishes. When I arrived in July, I immediately noticed the poor condition of some of the vestments being used for Mass. The vestments used at Mass are very important as they remind us that the priest acts in the person of Christ. The priest, through the gift of ordination, is the “stand in” for Jesus. This is why he covers himself in vestments – to make clear that it is not about Fr. C- or Fr. P-, but about Jesus. Since the vestments are to remind us that it is Jesus, through the ministry of the priest, who celebrates the Holy Mass, the vestments should be noble, beautiful, and worthy of being worn by Jesus Himself.”
    After “…by Jesus Himself”, I’d insert a d.c. al Fine, with an ad infinitum.

  12. robtbrown says:

    Why do they not write and talk this way about Eastern Catholics with their spectacular golden crowns and magnificent vestments? Even when we Latins put on all our gear, we we don’t do crowns.

    I noticed that same thing years ago when I read Xavier Rynne’s (AKA Fr Francis Xavier Murphy) journal of Vatican II. He would berate Western ritual dress but gush about that of the Eastern bishops. I thought then (and still think now) that it was little else than liberal self loathing combined with preference for the exotic. It was despising the rabbits and other animals in the backyard but loving elephants and tigers.

  13. Chrissin says:

    I love the old Mass so I’m not eager to criticize and would never have a spittle-flecked nutty….but I think the cappa magna is ridiculous. The first time I saw it (in pictures only) I could understand why some on the far side might begin to twitch, and began to see the argument about ‘accretions’. It made me cringe a bit…this was going too far! I also can’t take the gloves with the ring on top! Too fussy. And actively dislike the hand kissing during the Mass. Way too gay. I love formality, tradition, pomp & circumstance, military precision, and men in uniforms! Now when I see pictures of the popes like Pius and John XXIII held aloft on the ceremonial chair is also looks ridiculous. My poor brain has been affected by overexposure to modern memes of equality and homosexuality.

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A good rant-reflection, inviting to further pondering.

    One might say – with the Maria Geburt church in Schweinheim (Bishop, Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Archbishop, Reinhard Cardinal Marx) aesthetics (including vestimental) about which your posted on 1 November in mind – “They fixate on vestments” of various sorts in ways that are “truly bizarre”.

    For, “This is the exact opposite of the liberal approach to liturgy and garb. What liberals do screams that its all about them” applies not only to the rejection of the traditional but equally to the affirmation of such elaborate – and presumably expensive – vestimental and other aesthetic manifestations as the Schweinheimlich.

    One aspect inviting further thought is the sort of disjunctive conjunction of traditional “outward signs of propriety or decorum” with ideological content that makes them seem merely “outward” – like the richly vested (Anglo-Catholic) gentleman once incumbent (prior to Fr. John Hunwicke) in St. Thomas the Martyr’s, Oxford, who, upon a Christmas midnight turned from tenderly laying the Bambino in the crib to preaching that you didn’t really need to believe in the Virgin Birth.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    By the way, is that Archbishop Mvé Engone with cappa magna outside Rome?

  16. The Masked Chicken says:

    A Pontifical High Mass without a cappa magna is like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta performed in tee shirts and jeans. Humans thrive on ceremony.

    The Chicken

  17. LeeF says:

    As with most things in the Church, there is and should be a tension between opposing extremes. There can be such a thing as reverent simplicity. But people most often need cues to be reverent, just as with the bells at the consecration, and that to me is the real purpose of solemnity.

    Adults need to model and instill reverence to children, lest they grow up to produce the not uncommon Novus Ordo sight of teenagers whispering and giggling during the consecration. And while the Cappa Magna is a bit much for my personal taste, only by insisting on the occasional situational appropriateness of such pomp can the point of solemnity be made. Otherwise we find ourselves in the disastrous negotiating position of always giving without receiving something in return.

  18. mamajen says:

    I was looking into this the other day because I was curious, and from what I saw from liberals, they do not grasp the humility thing at all. Quite the opposite. They see needless extravagance and cardinals who want to be kings.

    Why don’t they go after the Eastern Catholics? Because they have a very strong identity. It is who they are and have always been. In the West we departed from our traditions, and we don’t have a consistent identity any longer. It’s hard to climb back up a slippery slope.

  19. aquinas138 says:

    Grateful to be Catholic –

    The vestment in question is called an omophorion; it shares an origin with the Western pallium, though in the Byzantine rite, all bishops wear the omophorion, whereas in the Latin rite, the pallium is conferred by the Pope on metropolitan archbishops and primates.

    I think Father Z asks a good question, one I have wondered about myself, about why these crazed iconoclasts so hate Western liturgical patrimony but leave Easterners alone. My only thought is that it is a manifestation of that peculiarly modern-Western liberal elite hatred for their own tradition. If you enter a Roman rite parish that suffers embarrassing attempts at inculturation – the dancing, prancing, incense bowls and rain sticks variety – there is 100% certainty that those behind it are a bunch of white Baby Boomer gray-hairs who are stuck in 1968. Anything from Western Europe or America is shameful, bigoted, non-inclusive and should be shunned, whereas literally everything else in the world is wonderful exactly to the extent that it is not-Western.

    What is particularly crazy, is that Byzantine ceremonial is WAY “over-the-top” in exactly the ways these people hate. Though it has fallen out of favor a bit in many Eastern Catholic parishes, if you go to an Orthodox parish, besides the spectacular vestments, you still see people begging a blessing and kissing the priest’s hand, kneeling to receive absolution at Confession as the priest covers their head with his epitrachelion (roughly a stole), reaching out to kiss the priest’s vestments during the incensations, kissing the chalice after receiving Communion, kissing and bowing and prostrating before icons, etc. And of course the biggie – those priests also “turn their back to the people,” and do so behind an iconostas which in many churches is quite solid!

  20. PAT says:

    Fr. Blake has a splendid post in which he discusses the Cappa Magna. A sample:

    “Blood red, not white, is the proper papal colour, it symbolises the martyrs, most especially Ss Peter and Paul. The fact you need an attendant or minder to hold the other end of the cappa indicates the dependency of a Cardinal on others, it symbolises the burden of office, the stream of blood behind a Prince of the Church. . . . Blood red silk flowing from his shoulders, is supposed to be a statement signifying ‘that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.’ which is what Pope says at the imposition of the red hat.”

    “The Church has always recognised the Cappa is worn as a sign of the external vanities of the world, I like the prayer that is said when it is removed. ‘Take off of me, Lord, the old man with his manners and deeds: and put on me the new man, who according to God is created in justice, and the holiness of truth.’ It’s removal is actually more important than its wearing because after its removal the Cardinal or Bishop ends up being clothed in the casuala, the little house, the Church of charity. . . .”

    Red Rags and the Order of Malta: http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/2014/11/red-rags-and-order-of-malta.html

  21. scarda says:

    The reverence-loathing liberals simply hate the reverence directed toward anyone or thing which is not themselves. There are several politicians who, I think, might not only tolerate but encourage genuflections toward themselves, and who might graciously pat our little heads if we begged a blessing.

  22. jfk03 says:

    The crown-like miter worn by Orthodox and EC bishops did not come into common usage until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Old icons never depict bishops (e.g., Basil, Chrysostom) with such headwear. Similarly, I doubt that the cappa magna is an ancient vestment of the Western Church.

    I am an Eastern Catholic traditionalist. Yet I really don’t see the point of the cappa.

  23. Charlie Cahill says:

    Could not all that glitter and gold be sold and the money given to the poor?

  24. Unwilling says:

    It is not the cappa as such they do not like. The very similar shape worn by Kate was oohed and aahed over.

    They can tolerate much, if it does not lead to holiness and justice. There was much camera action, commentary, and delight taken in her sister’s lack of a similar garment. Even the solemnity of the secular ritual was enjoyable insofar as it could be separated from God, from the Church, from holiness. And how can they tell when it is godly and detestable? When it is clear that the passions are making way for the spirit. When celebration is subordinate to praise. When the mind governs the urges. When order overwhelms disorder. What they dislike, as Fr. Z points out, is the formality of Catholic rituals.

    In one of those strange twists of etymological fate, the opposite of “informal” is “informed”. The “in-” of “informed” is not a negation but a prepositional idiom indicating that form is being “inserted”, “injected”, “introduced”. The “in-” of “informality” is mere negation, a calque of “a-morphos” [Greek], “shapelessness”, “without form”.

    Does that last phrase remind you of Genesis 1:2?
    “The earth was without form and void”. “וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ”
    The Hebrew phrase “tohu w bohu” is wonderfully onomatopoeic. (Wouldn’t that be a great adjective for many of the liturgies we see links to on youTube? “It was incredible! Clowns, dancing nymphs, cut outs raining on us form the ceiling… totally tohu wa bohu!”)

    “ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος”
    The LXX Greek “akataskeuastos” beginning with “a-” (un- = in- as negation) indicates that there was nothing in order, nothing laid out and definite… until God created. To the extent that God is actively present, there is form and substance. Of course, God’s ways are not [always] our ways. And even the impulse to holiness can get out of hand with too much pious invention along human lines — we must allow the possibility that some kinds of rules and rituals are of man and not of God. OK, possibility granted. Actuality denied! The problem we are facing now is not an excess of ritualism, but a dearth thereof. Fr Z points out that there is a “devastating …slide into ever greater informality”.

    I was struck by a passage in the speech by Pope Benedict posted here the other day, identifying a school of thought that considers “sacredness” (Italian sacralità) itself as something “pagan”, un-Christian. Is nothing sacred? Let nothing be sacred!

  25. Matt R says:

    Chrissin, I think you have rather missed the point of those external things in the usus antiquior. The cappa magna is a symbol of the world, and I think our proper response to it is to be awed, first at its size and material, second at the fact that someone would willingly give up the world in order to enter the sacrifice of the Mass, thus transcending this world in preparation for eternity. As far as the sedia goes for the Popes, that’s not only a ceremonial matter, but a practical one. The Popes were quite elderly for many centuries. Walking or even standing is hard on older people. As far as the solita oscula go, it’s a ceremonial thing, and Fr. Z has explained before why a priest or minister just ought to get over himself re: their use in the older form of the Roman Rite.

  26. JesusFreak84 says:

    The East also still gets to use blue as a liturgical color ^_~ I don’t imagine I’m the sole trad here who’s attended the Eastern Rite parishes to escape bad, falsely-inculturated {sp?} banality in the west. (And given our new Archbishop, I don’t imagine any TLM is going to show up closer to me than the Ukrainians already are…)

    aquinas138 covered just about anything else I would say.

  27. StMichael71 says:

    I am not a radical pro-cappa-magna-type person, but, on the other hand, I think we have to be careful to avoid slipping into the same mindset that belittles any sense of liturgical decorum in vestments, etc., when we criticize the cappa magna. Vestments and episcopal insignia exist because the bishop is treated like an altar – a symbol of the presence of Christ, whose minister he is. It would be impious to treat him as if he were just another Joe, in my estimation. On the other hand, he’s not God and we do have to consider that money used for these things can be profitably spent elsewhere. I think you’ve hit on an important point about a happy medium: not too flashy or expensive, but moderate, according to classical sensibilities, and on important occasions.

    It is noteworthy, I think, that the Orthodox (and Eastern Catholics) not only have elaborate imperially-derived vestments, but also have a form of train for their bishops that is analogous to the cappa magna in the Latin Rite. The bishop’s mantiya (a cope-like vestment used for extra Eucharistic celebrations and processions) can have a detachable train that, while not as long as the magna, I have seen be quite long at times. I found a picture below.


  28. Thorfinn says:

    “Could not all that glitter and gold be sold and the money given to the poor?”


    Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

  29. Dialogos says:

    Good points, Father. I recall my then bishop (I was Orthodox at the time) speaking about the full vesting as something he endured but he knew the spiritual message it sent to the people. I have found myself frustrated that far too many Catholic bishops “just don’t want the fuss” of fully vesting as much as they can–it edifies the people. Christ was a carpenter but He is also High Priest and King. You wear your carpenter’s apron in the shop but you vest to make sacrifice and enrobe for regal ceremonies. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we are so quick to dismiss true beauty. Holy Church has been such a part of bringing beauty to the world and yet now seems so determined to jettison that same beauty, all in a misguided quest to meet the world where it is or some other falsely sentimental pap. (I owe the idea of false sentimentality to one of Ven. Fulton Sheen’s programs in which distinguishes between true and false sentimentality–the latter continues to cause many many problems in our culture and is one of the pillars of political correctness.) As for why the liberals give the East a pass: I think it’s because liberals are okay with what they perceive as meaningless formality. I really think they completely misunderstand the East, but I also think it’s because the East is so liturgy-centric that the other works are not given their due. remember: under the Communists a few churches were still open but the Church was not allowed any activity that touched on the works of mercy.

  30. rhhenry says:

    I was born in 1977, so all of these clothing items are foreign to me. I can see two problems with catechizing even (attempting-to-be) faithful Catholics like me when it comes to things like this:

    1) Breaking through the “What the?” reaction when seeing this sort of thing for the first time. So many questions arise so quickly that I wouldn’t even know how to go about organizing my questions, much less the answers. Why haven’t I seen this before? Why am I seeing it now? Does this extra formality mean that this Mass is “better” — if it’s good enough for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, why was it not used at the 19th? What’s the point? I didn’t even wear an overcoat to Mass, so why does the bishop need all that stuff? Plus he just disappeared and came out for Mass without it, so wasn’t the whole point of the procession just to show off? Sorry if these questions seem irreverent, but they’re there.

    2) Even after receiving answers, how do you convince someone that the answers are “real” and not made up after the fact? I like the description given above about setting aside earthly riches to enter God’s presence at Mass. But that description reminds me a bit of the parody on Eye of the Tiber wherein (going from memory here) an “ultra-trad” tries to explain the deep significance of Father accidentally tripping and falling at Mass — it reminds us of Jesus falling on the road to Golgotha; it reminds us of how we all stumble into, but also arise from, sin, etc. Maybe I’m too cynical, but it feels like creating something significant in response to what was, several hundred years ago, an attempt by one bishop to show another that he was more powerful, as evidenced by the fact that his cappa was more magna than the other’s.

    So in short, we need instruction! But you’ve got your work cut out for you, given that those of us born and raised in the post-Vatican II era are cynical, snarky, and confused by this sort of thing . . .

  31. Marc M says:

    Heh. The fruit of trusting too much in two semesters of Latin, 15 years ago.. as I read these stories referencing the cappa magna over the last few days, I pictured some sort of big hat.

    I have found things to love in the traditional liturgy, as well as in a properly reverent NO Mass, and I must admit I’m sympathetic to Chrissin’s position. The sight of a server holding up the end of a cleric’s super-long train evokes one thing and one thing alone in today’s world, and that’s a wedding dress. I totally understand why people might see this particular tradition as especially absurd.

  32. Faith says:

    I’m not a liberal and I do a nutty (no spittle flecked) whenever I see the cappa magna, the gloves with the rings over the fingers, the mitres that reach to the sky, and the kissing of the hand, kissing of the biretta, etc.
    It’s just so foreign to my eyes. I also think the same when I see the pomp in the Eastern Churches. But since I, and other Westerners, don’t see as much of the Eastern Churches as much as the Roman, my nutties aren’t as often. Actually, when I do see an Eastern ceremony, I give thanks to God that I’m Roman and not Eastern.
    There was a pope who sold his crown and gave the money to the poor. And I can’t help but think, “how much did this cost,” when I see the extravagance of a magna cappa. I know a priest who even said cassocks were too expensive. But I don’t know about that; how they compare to the cost of a clerical suit.

  33. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    An attack on traditional Roman garb and ways is an attack [on] our Eastern brethren too.

    Just as an attack on traditional worship ad orientem is an attack on our Eastern brethren too. Whenever I discuss the matter with an opponent of the traditional orientation, I ask, “So, then, the Eastern Churches have gotten it wrong all this time?” More than once came the reply, “Let’s not go there.”

  34. Paulo says:

    “It’s not just that they despise the old ways. They despise the people who revere tradition. They despise the people because of their own contempt for authority. ”

    Msgr. Charles Pope, on a recent blog entry, wonders whether the widespread use of the word “good news” as a synonym to Gospel, as opposed to “the life-changing and transformative utterance of God, which is able to save us if we obey its demands in faith”, has not helped undermine the AUTHORITY of the Evangelion, im which people are poicking the “nice” passages and discarding the hard ones.

    We can extend this in the following way: if the authority of the word of God is undermined, then the whole edifice of worship comes crumbling down – which includes, among many other things, “decorum” (and by extension, rich and dignifying vestments).

  35. mamajen says:

    Thinking a bit more about this, I think Father Z is right that liberals grasp the humility aspect on some level. It would take a great deal of humility for a liberal priest, bishop, cardinal or dare I say pope to leave aside his personal preferences and don traditional vestments/say the usus antiquior. I think they do know this. I don’t think they see men like Burke as humble, but it’s easier to find some way to attack someone else as being wrong when one doesn’t want to do what is uncomfortable. I think they know that their more “modest” vestments have nothing to do with humility.

    My diocese is blessed to have a bishop who is not a traditionalist, but is humble.

  36. Unwilling says:

    Marc M, your connection of wedding dress trains to the “absurd” was probably unintended. But it has decided me to mention in this context the recent “dress code” change at Starbucks Coffee (champions of marriage – see Fr Z’s masthead) forbidding the wearing of engagement rings, while allowing tattoos and nose rings etc.

    Why forbid engagement rings? We have to reconstruct Starbucks’ reasoning.

    An engagement is a symbol and wearing it is a declaration. An engagement ring, a typical one with jewels, is an expensive celebration of marriage as something positive and good. Someone (or the vast majority of those) wearing an engagement ring would have a traditional understanding of marriage and declare, by wearing it, flaunting it, that they value marriage so highly that intend to enter into the institution and commit themselves to a life of sexual fidelity and family intimacy. So an engagement ring is a public declaration of the goodness and joy of traditional marriage.

    What’s not to like?

  37. Matt Robare says:

    Interestingly, Marc M, I think part of the point about the vestments is the importance of wearing the proper garments to the King’s wedding feast. There’s nothing quite like the boob who shows up to a wedding unshowered, wearing dirty jeans, sneakers and a tee-shirt with a tuxedo printed on it. It’s disrespectful and rude to the bride, the groom and their families. It demonstrates that one puts their own comfort above their host, even though they were invited and they will be eating and drinking food and beverages purchased by the host.

    The inescapable fact about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is that it is not about me or you. It is about Christ and his death and ressurrection. It is about God Himself, THE LORD, the King of the Universe, the Creator of everything, who of his own volition allowed himself to be arrested on spurious charges, convicted in a show trial, sentenced to death by slow torture and then rose from the dead to ascend into Heaven, without so much as wanting to get back at the people who treated him so harshly. And he found the time to establish the memorial where we get to join our nature to his. And remember: as far as human beings are concerned we are incapable of turning away from sin without the graces he freely gives us and without his Sacrifice we have a snowball’s chance in a supernova of earning enough merit to wipe out even one sin.

    So to recap: Jesus takes the rap, humans get off scot-free and get the loot. Not even the People’s Republic of Taxachusetts is so lenient.

    The least we can do is show some respect by putting on a tie and kneeling at the appropriate moments when we commemorate his Sacrifice.

    “Though primarily the words of consecration mean that the Body and Blood of Christ is present on the altar, there is a secondary meaning which concerns ourselves. The priests and the people are also called to make such a total dedication of themselves, by death to sin and lower life, that they can say ‘This is my body, this is my blood. I care not if the species or the accidents or the appearances of my life remain, such as my duty in life, my avocations, my employment. Let all these things stay as they are, but what I am before Thee, my intellect, my will, my body, my soul, let all these be so changed that I may be not mine but Thine.’ Then we realize in the deepest sense, the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: ‘With Christ I hang upon the Cross.'” — Vl. Fulton Sheen, in his introduction to This is the Mass, by Henri Daniel-Rops.

  38. lmo1968 says:

    I admit, I have seen pictures of Cdl. Burke in his cappa magna and have found it all to be slightly ridiculous. Not just him, as others have said, the gloved hands with the ring on top, the mile high mitres, etc. Yes, I get that this is all supposed to convey the glory of Christ’s kingship. But, the problem for me is I don’t want to treat the prelates as Christ. They are not Christ. They are not divine. They act as Christ in the liturgy; yes, they step into that role. But they are not Christ. The clericalism of the easterners as somebody described it above (stole covering, ring kissing, vestment kissing etc) makes me nauseous. I don’t think it is Christian. I will not kiss somebody’s ring, not because I refuse the bishop’s authority, but because I do not venerate rings. I will obey the bishop because he is the successor to the apostles but I do not think that Jesus intended that I kiss rings.

    So, I think that is what goes through a lot of people’s mind when they see the cappa magna: A bunch of men dressing up in a way that invites a clericalist mentality but misses the point of Christ’s divinity. It appears to raise clerics to the equal stature of Christ in the eyes of the laity.

  39. Uxixu says:

    Too many bishops allowed the dignity of their episcopates to be diminished piecemeal. Ultimately begins with the dressing down from their usual dress to the habitus pianus at the beginning of the 20th century along with the cyclical diminishment of the minor orders culminating in the anti-clericalism of the 60’s. Part of the same faux pauperism that would have prelates of Mother Church living in haircloth instead of honored by the faithful as heirs to the Apostles.

    As far as the Easterners… predators go where the prey is at and there’s just no publicity, if not juice in it to go after relatively statistically obscure sects.

  40. Unwilling says:

    lmo1968 (and others) lost or never had the Codes. Signifier-Codes-Signified [Sr-Cd-Sd]
    Cd is a shared community knowledge (gen. tacit) of interpretation. {Sr has a potency in relation to the Sd that is reduced to actuality by a person’s invocation or use of Cd.} If no one can see the holiness of glorious vestments, then the Sr will not actually signify them. If a community can be prevented from seeing the sign in act, they will never learn the codes; or if they have seen them can forget them. Then the rites will at most be (become) incomprehensible social relics. E.g languages become extinct from non-use. Another reason to push for actual celebrations of TLM.

  41. Joe in Canada says:

    I will genuflect before a bishop and kiss his ring (if he allows me). I do prefer that a bishop dress like a bishop. But some things are not signs of higher realities: they are remnants of a past when Popes mingled with Princes as their equals. In a conceivable world the cappa magna could be quite fine, but it is now become a casus belli that is, frankly, unnecessary. In the middle ages some swore the Blood Oath, to shed their blood to defend the Immaculate Conception. The magna cappa is not that sort of thing. Is it a pity it might be lost, and for the wrong reasons? Perhaps, but so with the ostrich plumes and the sedia. I level no criticism at the good Cardinal for having used it (and I disagree with lmo1968 about it looking ridiculous), but I reach the prudential judgment that now its time has come and gone.

    I pray that Cardinal Burke be purified and strengthened by his trials, and I thank God for giving us such a good witness

  42. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    “The charge of calculated grandiosity, of ‘stilts’ remains. The difficulty here is that the modern critic tends to think Milton is somehow trying to deceive. We feel the pressure of the poet on every word – the builded quality of his verse – and […] that it is a tell-tale indication of his failure to achieve spontaneity. But does Milton want to sound spontaneous? […] The real question is whether an air of spontaneity – an impression that this is the direct outcome of immediate personal emotion – would be in the least proper to this kind of work. I believe it would not. We should miss the all-important sense that something out of the ordinary is being done. Bad poets in the tradition of Donne write artfully and try to make it sound colloquial. […]A man performing a rite is not trying to make you think that this is his natural way of walking, these the unpremeditated gestures of his own domestic life. If long usage has in fact made the ritual unconscious, he must labour to make look deliberate, in order that we, the assistants, may feel the weight of the solemnity pressing on his shoulders as well as on our own. Anything casual or familiar in his manner is not ‘sincerity’ or ‘spontaneity’ but impertinence. Even if his robes were not heavy in fact, they ought to look heavy. There is no need to suppose any deception. … What flowed [from Milton] was something stylized, remote from conversation, hierophantic. The style is not pretending to be ‘natural’ any more than singer is pretending to talk.”
    – C.S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost, p. 58-59. Emphasis in boldface.

  43. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    aquinas138, thank you for the explanation of the omophorion.

    About the cappa magna, I have to say that it struck me as over-the-top. But if the correct explanation is that it represents worldliness that must be put off in order to enter into the Sacrifice of the Mass, then it should be seen as properly ridiculous, seductive in its rich fabric and bright color, but essentially worthless. I hope that is the true meaning and not an after-the-fact EOTT excuse. One point in its favor: the bishop does not wear the cappa for the recessional.

  44. Marc M says:

    Matt Robare et al- to be sure, there are perfectly good reasons for all the vestments, high expectations for dress and decorum among the congregation, etc. Believe me, I want to lead that charge at my own parish. But there are vestments, and there are vestments.

    For example, the first time my wife (then-Protestant) witnessed a visit from the Bishop, with all the pomp and circumstance, Knights of Columbus honor guard, etc., it struck her as terribly undue honor for a mere man. But it sparked a conversation, after which she appreciated the meaning behind it all, which she hadn’t known before. The same goes for regular priestly vestments.

    The cappa magna, on the other hand, speaks more to me (as commented by others) of worldly royalty than it does of putting on Christ. Or, to be blunt again, of a wedding dress. I’m no liberal. I am all for tradition, but this one seems to have lost its mooring and appears to now signify something other than it was intended to.

  45. Marissa says:

    An engagement is a symbol and wearing it is a declaration. An engagement ring, a typical one with jewels, is an expensive celebration of marriage as something positive and good. Someone (or the vast majority of those) wearing an engagement ring would have a traditional understanding of marriage and declare, by wearing it, flaunting it, that they value marriage so highly that intend to enter into the institution and commit themselves to a life of sexual fidelity and family intimacy. So an engagement ring is a public declaration of the goodness and joy of traditional marriage.

    While I strongly disagree with Starbuck’s decision, the engagement ring is not traditional. It’s the product of the post-war (WW2) advertising campaign by deBeer’s (“Diamonds are Forever”, not marriage, diamonds). Before that, it was mostly royalty and nobility who used them. The engagement ring could also be seen as a continuation of the “Heart of Gold” suits that were the product of pre-marital sexual relations. One can see old stories of these suits in newspaper scans – a woman sleeps with her boyfriend, he breaks it off and she insists he told her he would marry her, and he has to pay her an absurd sum. It eased up the courts (and prisons, for those who couldn’t pay) to just give the ol’ girl a big rock to ease her conscience and greed.

    I don’t mind the cappa magna at all.

  46. William Tighe says:

    “I pray the if it is God’s will, a well-known pastoral shepherd who once was little boy of humble background from Richland County, Wisconsin will someday become Pius XIII. I would love to see Winters’ and Mickens’ face on that glorious day.”

    Agreed, except for the papal name,for which I’d prefer “Leo XIV.” Much as I admire Pius XII, he was responsible for the beginning of “imposed from above” liturgical changes (i.e., the “reform” of the Triduum) which were the unfortunate precursor of what came later; and he was also the pope who first put Annibale Bugnini into a position where he could do so much harm.

  47. Unwilling says:

    Marissa, you make some good and useful points. Compare Hallmark victories in “creating” Mother’s/Father’s Day and capturing St. Valentine’s Day (to say nothing of what “they” have done to Christmas and Easter).

    But, I am less cynical about the present day function of these events than you appear to be. As for the actual history of engagement rings, the Wikipedia article gives a more rounded account.
    I believe that nowadays only a tiny minority of engaged couples get their ring(s) for such crass motives as have been alleged there. The relative newness of the (diamond) engagement ring as symbol does not affect its ability to signify; nor does its being itself non-traditional prevent its signifying something traditional. Whatever the past, the present attack by Starbucks on engagement rings is plausibly interpreted as another step in their attack on traditional marriage. Is this also your reason for strongly disagreeing with them? Regards,

  48. Thorfinn says:

    Uxixu: Part of the same faux pauperism that would have prelates of Mother Church living in haircloth instead of honored by the faithful as heirs to the Apostles.

    There isn’t necessarily a conflict between the two. I prefer priests and bishops to live simply and engage is appropriate penitential practices as examples for the people and as a furtherance to their own holiness. I guess what you are referring to is the ridiculous fad for pressuring bishops to sell episcopal residences, as if having 6 bathrooms in a building means they’re living a life of luxury?

  49. Choirgirl says:

    And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted? 5 For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” And they reproached her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14: 3-9 RSV

    The bishop enters the place of sacrifice alter Christi as Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. What is His royal cape upon entering will be His winding sheet upon His mystical death.

    The poor will be with us, and we can take care of them as well as adorn him who walks in His steps to the Holy Sacrifice. Render unto God AND render unto the poor.

    And why are the liberals wasting time and energy in complaining and mocking, when they could be using both to render unto the poor? They should have beaten us in the race to the peripheries already, for heaven’s sake! They have no such intentions of even starting out, however, and in the meantime their slothful hypocracy has left them open to becoming the pawns of satan that they are. Pawns of satan? After having read some of the posts on the internet, yes, pawns of satan. He goads them into increasing hatred towards the traditions of the Church that “should have died” decades ago. That’s what infuriates them the most: the things about the Church that should be dead aren’t, and in fact are giving rise to a new springtime in the Church.

    And that’s why I am no longer upset about Cardinal Burke. He has stepped forward as a leader in this new springtime. Let’s pray, wait on the Lord, and see what God has planned.

  50. Uxixu says:

    Thorfinn, we should expect the man to live humbly as much as we should want to exalt the office the man temporarily inhabits and passes on. The entire ceremony of donning the Cappa and then removing it to make way for the sacred vestments in the Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form is loaded with symbolism and shows this far better than pretending they’re not shepherds over millions without inadvertently diminishing their authority when compared to the secular princes, who may not wear the title anymore, but certainly live like it and will continue to do so despite the gnashing of populist teeth.

    I’m reminded of the lesson of the expensive ointment from Matthew 26:6-13.

  51. spock says:

    The issue is that the cappa magna is implies hierarchy which is now everywhere and always bad. We must be horizontal, not vertical. We’re all the same. Without distinction.

  52. Toan says:

    Perhaps Card. Burke, in his new position, will bring the cappa magna to the periphery!

  53. frjim4321 says:

    Primarily I think the problem is the flagrant squandering of the precious and limited resources of the church and of the people of the church. I have a lot of secondary issues but really the main concern is one of justice.

  54. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Beyond the symbolic meanings (which are deep and varied and important), the main reason for a cardinal to wear a cappa magna, or a bishop to wear a pointy hat, is so that you don’t have to crane your neck and strain your eyes to tell who that unfamiliar guy showing up is, and whether or not he has authority, and how much authority he has.

    They are a convenient visual tag.

    As for people who don’t like the aesthetics — well, I don’t like the aesthetics of cars. Nobody asked me what cars should look like, and whether they should be tubby or long and lean, or whether they should be allowed to drive on the roads during daylight hours. But you’re not questioning cars, which have only been around a little over a hundred years; you’re worried about bishops, which have had the same look for five hundred years and more. Cars kill people, and yet you give them a pass that you don’t give to rings worn over gloves? Seriously?

  55. Marissa says:

    Unwilling, I should have clarified. I definitely don’t think most people today use engagement rings for the reasons I stated. I consider its tawdry beginnings perhaps a little too distastefully. It is indeed a pretty good symbol these days, though the wedding ring is certainly better! And yes, I disagree with Starbucks because this is yet another attack from them on marriage. I don’t give them my money anymore.

  56. Mike says:

    “Primarily I think the problem is the flagrant squandering of the precious and limited resources of the church and of the people of the church. I have a lot of secondary issues but really the main concern is one of justice.”

    Videntes autem discipuli, indignati sunt, dicentes: Ut quid perditio haec? Potuit enim istud venundari multo, et dari pauperibus.

Comments are closed.